Lido Pimienta, an immigrant without a record deal, no marketing group and no actual copies of her winning record La Papessa available for sale beat out a field of high-profile artists such as Leslie Feist for the $50,000 Polaris Prize.

This was an extremely unlikely win on Monday for its Colombian-Canadian artist, who also conquered the sentimentality associated with a brief list of nominees which included a deceased iconic Canadian (Leonard Cohen) and a terminally ill Canadian rock legend (Gord Downie).

Ms. Pimienta’s record was financed by a $6,000 grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Its name translates to High Priestess, which is a sign of her sass and self-assurance. With an album of digital Latin art-pop filled with enabling, socially aware lyrics not sung in any of Canada’s official languages, Ms. Pimienta was the darkest of dark horses, and an outsider most in the music industry never saw coming.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail hours after she captured the prestigious national music award, Ms. Pimienta was in a sour mood. A two-song Polaris performance the evening before by the 30-year-old artist and her group at the Carlu event centre in Toronto was marred by noise problems. “I am a perfectionist,” she explains. “It was dreadful to not have the ability to hear ourselves.”

If Ms. Pimienta couldn’t hear herself, an assembled set of media, music lovers and industry professionals got an earful. Once they heard her sing about sexism — “a dumb woman, an Indigenous girls, a black lady” — they watched the musician audaciously express herself through an acceptance speech which appeared to be about anything but approval.

“Perhaps the one thing I can say is that I hope that the Aryan specimen who advised me to return to my own country two weeks after I arrived in London, Ontario, Canada is watching this,” stated Ms. Pimienta, who immigrated to Canada in 2006 as a teenager.

A single mother, the Toronto-based artist used her speech to thank her son. She also thanked her mother for “enduring white supremacy in Canada.”

Ms. Pimienta, who released her debut LP Shade to small national acclaim in 2010, raged against Polaris organizers over the noise difficulties. Expletives during her speech weren’t deleted for the live CBC webcast.

The musician suggested to The Globe her on-stage monitors might have been turned off intentionally by disgruntled sound technicians, upset by what might have been perceived by them as diva-like behavior on her part.

“I felt it was done out of spite and on goal,” said the musician, who had requested a drum kit be removed from the stage to accommodate her 10 dancers. Polaris manager and creator Steve Jordan has promised the musician that his group would never undermine a performance. On Tuesday, Polaris officials were looking into what resulted in the tech breakdown.

“My record is filled with pain,” Ms. Pimienta stated. “That is my life, and this is exactly what it is, and that I was only going to project with all the love in the world. I was not going to let anything to stop my performance{}”

Stopping isn’t in Ms. Pimienta’s DNA. Her songs are about battle. Faulty equipment is only one more obstacle.

Her strong words in the gala remembered a similar incident in 2014, when Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq utilized her Polaris acceptance speech to controversially promote Indigenous seal hunting. On Monday, Ms. Tagaq, a nominee this year for her demonstration album Retribution, conducted the Nirvana song Rape Me for a means to address the dilemma of missing and murdered native women.

Though long regarded as a party of Canadian indie rock, Polaris has its current winners honoured a Haitian-Canadian DJ (Kaytranada, in 2016), a septuagenarian Cree folk singer (Buffy Sainte-Marie, in 2015) and the Nunavut-based Ms. Tagaq.

Other nominees for this year’s prize included two records (Mr. Downie’s Secret Course and A Tribe Called Red’s We’re the Halluci Nation) about Canada’s history of forced cultural assimilation and residential schools for Indigenous youth.

“It was super daring,” says Ms. Pimienta, regarding the area of 10 short-listed albums. “Maybe we’re getting to this point of looking past the plaid shirts and acoustic guitars as well as the songs that rhyme dumb words along with other words that are dumb.”

Ms. Pimienta has stated La Papessa, which was affected by the passing of her brother and the disorders of two close friends, is about “getting ready for war, with love{}” On the tune La Capacidad (You can), she sings in her native tongue which she was not “born to fit into no hetero normative soap opera{}”

The tune Agua addresses water rights. “It is about my family in northern Colombia,” Ms. Pimienta stated. “They are persecuted by the authorities. We have been deprived of running water, exactly like on the reservations in this country.”

Her next album will be called Miss Colombia, a play on words referring to a fondness for her home country and the beauty-pageant culture of creating music. “It is never easy with me,” the musician says. “It is never black and white. But I am okay with that. Being complex is so much better than being fundamental.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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